Ontario Liberals nix legislated ban on political staff attending fundraisers

Ontario's Liberal government has nixed the idea of using legislation to ban chiefs of staff and other behind-the-scenes political decision makers from attending fundraisers, as they prepare to prohibit politicians from doing the same.

The Liberals have released a list of amendments they are proposing to an election finance reform bill, which they introduced amid criticism over fundraising events that saw cabinet ministers attend private, high-priced functions with stakeholders.

Under the amendments, any members of provincial parliament, party leaders, nomination contestants, candidates and leadership contestants would not be able to attend fundraisers.

They still could attend events where the ticket price only recovers the cost of the hosting it, and could still solicit funds by mail, phone or email.

To offset the impact on constituency associations, the Liberals are proposing subsidies of $25,000 per year, divided among the parties in each riding.

Last month, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said he had not ruled out extending the proposed fundraiser ban to senior political staff, but there is no language to that effect in the new amendments.

The Opposition has said that amounts to a loophole that allows through the back door what is banned through the front door. The government says it will develop a code of conduct to "set out fair, balanced rules for all elected officials and staff" by Jan. 1.